Tesla has unveiled a seven-seat compact sport-utility vehicle called the Model Y, in its latest effort to broaden its product range while contending with problems on a number of fronts.
Speaking Thursday night at an event at the company’s design center in Hawthorne, Calif., Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, touted the new electric vehicle’s performance and safety-focused design.
“It has the functionality of an SUV, but it will ride like a sports car,” Musk said. “We expect it will be the safest midsize SUV in the world by far.”
The Model Y will be available beginning next year, the company said, at prices ranging from $39,000 to $60,000, depending on the model, with a $2,500 deposit.
Various versions will be produced in North America, Europe, and China, Tesla said. A long-range version will be able to drive 300 miles on a single charge, it said, while the $60,000 Performance model will have a top speed of 150 miles per hour. The new vehicle will be available in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Germany, the Netherlands, and a number of other European countries.
The Model Y unveiling comes as Tesla confronts sales challenges in Europe and China, markets it has been counting on for expansion.
The company has also faced some operational uncertainty. Two weeks ago, Musk announced that Tesla would begin selling a long-awaited version of its Model 3 sedan priced at $35,000, $8,000 less than the cheapest current version. But he said Tesla would lose money in the first quarter, and analysts question whether Tesla can ever make money on the car at the lower price.
Tesla originally said customers would have to wait two to four weeks for delivery of the $35,000 Model 3. It now says the wait is six to eight weeks.
Sales of Tesla’s other models — the Model S luxury sedan and Model X sport-utility vehicle — have been flattening. And analysts suspect that demand for Tesla vehicles has softened since the beginning of the year, when the federal tax credit available to Tesla customers fell by half, raising the total cost for buyers.
Tesla responded with a series of price cuts to lift sales.
To cut costs, Tesla announced it would close most of its stores around the country. Days later, it backtracked and decided to keep many of the stores, and to reopen some that had already closed, although it affirmed a shift toward online-only sales. It also reversed direction on pricing, saying it would increase prices on all its cars except the $35,000 version of the Model 3.
There has also been renewed regulatory trouble. The Securities and Exchange Commission has asked a federal court to hold Musk in contempt for violating a settlement that he and Tesla reached with the commission last year regarding scrutiny of his statements. In a motion to the court, the SEC said Musk had not sought approval from company lawyers, as required by the agreement, before making a sales prediction on Twitter that varied from previous announcements.
In the Feb. 19 tweet, Musk said Tesla would make 500,000 cars this year, 100,000 more than the company forecast in January. Tesla’s general counsel left the company two days later.
Musk’s lawyers responded this week, saying that the commission was overreaching based on comparable precedents, that Musk was acting within his discretion, and that there was nothing material in the Twitter post that went beyond information already available to investors.